Bashful though they might be to admit it, those who have roamed the familiar grounds of Foothills Farms at summer shows in decades gone by are clearly a testament to the importance and longevity of equestrian sports in Northern Ontario.
There were some shining examples on hand, over the weekend, as the Chelmsford-based facility hosted the annual Rick Smith Memorial Trillium Horse Show, bringing together many of those who keep riding alive and well in this part of the province.
It had been some thirty years or so when Timmins native Kara Secord initially competed at Foothills, marking her move with a rapid ascension to the “A” circuit, back in her youth. On Sunday, she was on hand with her seven year old daughter, Havens, sponsoring a cross-rails division that isn't normally in play for these events.
“It's just a great entry level course,” said Secord. “We don't normally have anything here, besides the short-stirrups, where the kids can go from the walk-trot and then start into the cross-rails, learning to jump.”
“With this, they don't have to do any diagonals, they're just on the outside, and coaches and parents are allowed in the ring. It's very low key, not a rated division. They don't get to go to provincials, but at least they get to experience the atmosphere of a real horse show.”
No need to sell at least one of the entries on hand. “I like it,” said grade three student Havens Secord. “I do it at the trot, so I don't have to jump. With the trot, they (the horses) just trot over the rails. With the cantor, they have to jump over them.”
Working with all three of her ponies with some regularity (Cinderella, Stars, Whiz), Secord leans towards a Disney-like preference in noting the horse that she most enjoys riding. “Cinderella is the one I've been riding for a long, long time,” said Havens. “She's a little slow, so I have to make her go forward. And she eats the most,” she added with a smile.
That horse and rider relationship, quite truthfully, is really at the very core of this equestrian discipline. Looking to make some noise at the Trillium Championships in September, Trevella Stables mainstay Anyk Mainville acknowledged that having the same horse (Gamekeeper) for the past four years certainly has helped her efforts.
“We kind of have the same personality, we both kind of go with the flow, and he listens really well,” said Mainville. “He's just a really nice horse. He'll make his own decisions, at times, and I'm OK with that.”
Though she concedes that the under saddle events are where she is most comfortable, Mainville also acknowledged that there is still plenty of work to be done to become a picture perfect rider. “I like the under saddles, when we're flatting around,” she said. “There's no jumps involved, so you don't have to try and find a distance. You can just go along and show off your horse.”
“But I'm not really good at equitation,” she added. “You have to look natural, and I have that pretty good, but I have bad shoulders – I slouch a lot.” With several shows still remaining on the schedule, Mainville will look to continue to compile the points in anticipation of the largest show of the year, for the Trillium circuit, at Palgrave.
“Usually at Palgrave, you need to prep them (the horses) a lot more, because there's a lot more going on,” explained Mainville. “You have to lunge them more, make sure they are tired. I just like having that friendship with the horse.”
That type friendship is a big reason why Miranda Boudreau was so determined to try and return to riding, even after sustaining a nasty concussion which forced her to take some time away from her passion.
“I'm just happy to be back with my partner, Indy,” said the 21 year old Laurentian University Bio Medical Biology student, who is pursuing her acceptance to medical school. “He's amazing. He's brave, he'll jump anything. He's my partner in crime, we've been together for so long.”
“I definitely want to go to champs with him and show him off, prove that he's an amazing horse, in spite of what he went through,” Boudreau added, alluding to serious stomach ulcers that sidelined Indy a short while back.
While most of the riders on hand this weekend will close out their season with the completion of either the NEC (Northern Equestrian Circuit) or the Trillium Circuit, 14 year old grade nine Lo-Ellen Park student Julia Arnold is taking a serious crack at the Royal Winter Fair Horse Show in Toronto in November.
Needless to say, she's come a long way since both she and her mother (Leanne) first took up riding some seven years ago. “The first lessons were a little bit hard,” said Julia Arnold. “People make it look easy, but it is actually hard, especially when you first learn to post and get your leg strength.”
These days, she is fine-tuning her craft in much greater detail, an absolute necessity given her goals for the year. “I'm a lot more technical, working on a lot of little details,” she said. “On the “A” circuit especially, it's a lot of the little things that you need to make perfect.”
Increasing notably the number of “A” circuit shows she attended in 2018, Arnold walked away short of the Royals, but with some very valuable knowledge under her belt. “I found that I was definitely a little too slow in everything I was doing,” she said. “I just had to make sure I keep pace, especially through the corners.”
“Once you keep pace, you're good to go.”
And once you're good to go, chances are that we will see you, out at Foothills Farms, at least a few times, each and every summer.
Following are a few of the highlighted results from the weekend:Hunter Derby (sponsored by Northern Legacy Farms)
Champion - Miranda Boudreau - 28 total competitors
Horse - Ingenuity (Indy)
Coach - Cathy Inch
Top Junior Rider - Jumper Division
(sponsored by Catherine Priddle)
Champion - Mercedes Shulman (Powassan)
Horse - WKM Explorer
Coach - Shelley Ellis (Eastwood Equestrian)
Short Stirrup Division
Champion - Holly Heikkila (Foothills)
Pony - Glen Erin Garrett